April 18, 2007

Seletar's extreme makeover begins

Some firms will be relocated, public golf course to close down

By Karamjit Kaur, Aviation Correspondent

THE makeover to turn the sleepy surroundings of Seletar Airport into an aerospace hub has begun.

Though the final blueprint for the area will not be finalised for several weeks, this green haven of quiet streets, clubs and black-and-white bungalows is already in the process of changing forever.

Seletar Camp is home to more than 30 aerospace companies, several hundred residents and a handful of clubs.

Tenants affected by the first phase of the development are preparing to relocate.

Fifteen companies occupying a single-storey building near the airport - operating aircraft maintenance and repair services, charter flight operations and other aerospace activities - will be moved soon so that work can start on building a new facility there.

The tenants will be temporarily housed in two abandoned buildings at Old Birdcage Walk, also within the former military air base.

When The Straits Times visited the site recently, renovation works were in full swing and a contractor said the companies are scheduled to move into the abandoned buildings by July, at the latest.

Mr Robert Tan, general manager of Seletar Country Club, which operates a nine-hole public course and a members-only facility there, confirmed that the club will stay but the public Seletar Base Golf Course will close down.

He said: 'The lease expires at the end of June and we have been told it will not be renewed, so we will have to go.'

He said it would be a pity if the land is taken away only to remain abandoned for months, or even years.

'We have appealed to the authorities to allow us to use the place until the very last day,' he said.

Across the road, Kingfisher Club, a popular restaurant and bar, shut down last month.

As for the mainly expatriate residents who live in the colonial black-and-white bungalows and semi-detached houses, many have started searching for somewhere else to live.

Their leases expire at the end of next year, though there has been talk that they may now be extended to 2010.

Mr Logan Ravishankar, chief executive officer of MyJet Asia, which operates mainly chartered flights, works and lives in Seletar.

He said: 'There is so much uncertainty over the fate of this place and we do not want to wait to be booted out. Like many of my neighbours, I have started looking for a new home.'

The Seletar Aerospace Park will open in several phases and when completed in eight years, it will cover 140ha, or the size of more than 100 football fields.

It will be an important centre for aerospace activities like the maintenance, repair and overhaul of engines and other aircraft parts.

The Government also hopes to see companies set up aviation training institutes there.

By 2018, the park, a joint project by JTC and the Economic Development Board, is expected to create 10,000 jobs and contribute $3.3 billion a year to the economy.

The $60 million expansion project is necessary because space is running out at the Loyang and Changi North aerospace centres.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), meanwhile, will be spending more money to develop Seletar Airport.

The CAAS has called for consultants to advise on upgrading and improvement works for the runway, taxiways and aircraft parking bays.

There are also plans to extend the length of the runway at the airport, which is used mainly by private and business jets, and small charter airlines.

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'There is so much uncertainty over the fate of this place and we do not want to wait to be booted out. Like many of my neighbours, I have started looking for a new home.'
MR LOGAN RAVISHANKAR, chief executive officer of MyJet Asia who works and lives in Seletar